by Kimberly McGhee
Business Development & Marketing Services
The quality of one's health care should not depend on one's zip code.
And yet, in rural states like South Carolina, many citizens live in areas far from the metropolitan areas where most physicians practice. Rates of high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity are often high in these areas, meaning that those in our state with the most need for health care often have the least access to it.
They can, of course, choose to drive to a city where better medical services are available, but that means a day off work, the arrangement of child care and transportation costs, real barriers to those living paycheck to paycheck in these poorer rural areas.
Telemedicine could offer a solution. Capitalizing on the Internet's ability to collapse distance, telemedicine (usually provided via video teleconferencing) erases many of the traditional barriers to care by bringing the care to the patient. It offers a modern version of the house call.
Dr. Ron Acierno provides PTSD treatment to veterans via telemedicine.
MUSC has been a leader in telemedicine in the state. REACH [remote evaluation of acute ischemic stroke] MUSC, directed by Robert Adams, M.D., provides consultations with stroke neurologists at MUSC to partner sites statewide, allowing the rapid evaluation of stroke patients and a prompt decision about whether to administer a clot-busting drug (tissue plasminogen activator of tPA) that can lessen the risk of permanent disability after stroke in some patients if given within three hours of stroke onset. MUSC's maternal fetal telemedicine program, developed by Donna Johnson, M.D., chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology at MUSC, makes the services of MUSC maternal fetal medicine specialists, who have received special training in managing high-risk pregnancies, available via telemedicine to women in areas experiencing shortages of these specialists and high rates of hypertension, diabetes and obesity, all risk factors for high-risk pregnancy.
Telemedicine allows medical and mental health services to be delivered not only at hospitals or physician's offices but at the locations where they are most needed and most convenient. School-based programs, such as those developed by James T. McElligott, M.D., for both pediatric primary care (with funding from the Southeastern Virtual Institute for Health Equity and Wellness, directed by Sabra Slaughter, Ph.D.) and specialty care (as part of the Virtual Teleconsult Clinic of Samir Fakhry, M.D., chief of general surgery at MUSC), offer health care to children during the school day. Parents need not miss a day's work, and children receive prompt treatment for underlying conditions like asthma, making it less likely that they will end up in an emergency room. Ron Acierno, Ph.D., and Michael A. de Arellano, Ph.D., both professors of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at MUSC, direct programs delivering telemental health services at rape crisis centers, police departments, community centers, women's shelters, or even the patient's own home.
To learn more about these and other telemedicine programs at MUSC, read the October/November issue of Progress Notes at MUSChealth.com/progressnotes and watch the video on MUSC's telemedicine initiatives available at MUSChealth.com/telemedicine.
Editor's note: "Progressnotes" is a bimonthly publication produced by Business Development & Marketing Services. It is sent to all physicians licensed in South Carolina to inform them about clinical and research innovations at MUSC. For information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, Dec. 7, 2012